I supported the TEA Party call for cutting spending, limiting government, and reinstating Constitutional rule. Following the last election, this caucus' influence has drifted from the pragmatic to the problematic. In the last two election cycles, TEA Party activists have stifled successful primary candidates for the general election, and shoo-in Republicans lost. The GOP needs to link the Tea Party and the Establishment elements in this country.
We have seen the results of limited government libertarianism pushed to its limits: Barry Goldwater in 1964. In response to the majority of libertarians, the argument for less government must be replaced with more of something else. Goldwater's signature quote defines the trasformation of reform into self-righteous indignation:
"I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!"
"Extremism" is a violation of liberty. "The pursuit of justice" can never be "moderate," nor should we center our lives on attaining justice at all costs. The final rendering in a case or a conflict cannot be the defining future of man.
A Republican representative government cannot be based on extreme approaches to anything, nor justice as a means or an end for everything. Just telling people that the government is not supposed to do anything creates more fear than regard. In their defense, the TEA Party movement has not advocated anarchy.
However, like Progressives of the early 20th Century and Libertarians of the '64 Goldwater variety, the acceptance of "imperfect but better" is eluding our national discourse. For Progressives, the state would adjudicate everything, a concrete version of Rousseau's "General Will." Libertarians want government removed entirely so that men and women can be led from within by their own will. The TEA Party has focused on cutting spending, but the proper vision and vitality of this country cannot be ignored or reduced to "let's go back," because Americans were forced to pay into entitlement programs, and they are entitled at least to get back what was paid in.
Goldwater lost by the largest margin for a Republican Presidential candidate in U.S. History. Romney's loss was not nearly as bad, but it was egged on by this notion by cut, cut, cut from conservative elements in the country. There is no cutting outright unless there is something to replace it. Life is more than fighting for one's rights, and the alarmism which sponsors populist vitriol to make a point vitiates at the same time.
I respect the TEA Party's respect for the Constitution and Limited Government. But just as Reagan's rhetoric about "Government is the Problem" could not excuse him from working within government, so too shouting "Taxed Enough Already" will not get the message through without accepting that even in the most secure and respected of stances on issues, compromise must play a part.
The primary challenges over the past two cycles have kicked out moderates or liberal Republicans who would have won. Granted, moderate Republicans like Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe favored spending, though not as much as the Democrats. Snowe worked with two other Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee (Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi) and three other Democrats to come up with something. The comity on that committee is sorely needed yet sorely lacking in Washington today. She also voted against Obamacare, a much-needed vote to block the rise of the state.
Our leaders must shrink the government, but not the citizenry. Our government must respect the Constitution, but the Constitution was put in place to help form a "more perfect union", not foster private, uncaring disunity. Government is instituted to protect our rights. The proliferation of rights by judicial, administrative, or legislative fiat is wrong, but the right to organize, to practice one's faith, to express one's opinion, to pursue happiness: those rights cannot be removed, and our government needs to protect them. As for "Big Government" or "Government Helping People", let the states and the cities do that job: they do it, and they do it better.
The TEA Party made their points in 2010, and now they have to allow their leaders to govern. The libertarian-progressive pursuit of the perfect or ideal candidate will nevercome. A minimal tax increase with real spending cuts is the best compromise for government in the near future. Only then if Democrats rebuff, then Republicans should no longer deal.